# Negative Zero and One in a Million

Two things of interest converge on my this morning when it’s all of 8 degree (F) as I sit reading as the sun comes up.

## Negative Zero (-0)

My friend John lives just up the hill from me near the Galena Weather station which is run by the Western Region Climate Center and the Desert Research Institute. The station has been logging negative zero over the last few mornings. While it’s interesting, and unpleasant that it’s getting that cold, my friend John is enjoying the negativity.

“Even better than hitting zero this morning, the Galena weather station is reporting -0.0. All these years, I knew there was a minus zero and I have finally found it!”

What are the chances of that heppening?

## One in a Million once a month

We use the phrase “one in a million” to describe an event that occurs so rarely as to be more or less impossible. Like winning the lottery or getting a hole in one. But turns out this is a fallacy related to the Law of Truly Large Numbers.

The law of truly large numbers, attributed to Persi Diaconis and Frederick Mosteller, states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen.[1] Because we never find it notable when likely events occur, we highlight unlikely events and notice them more. The law seeks to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology. [Wikipedia]

A practical example of this comes to me via the book You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRainey.

[Littlewood] said that the average person is alert for about eight hours every day, and something happens to the average person about once a second. At this rate you will experience 1 million events every thirty-five days. This means that when you say the chances of something happening are one in a million, it also means about once a month. This monthly miracle is called Littlewood’s Law. [You Are Not So Smart]

I don’t mind the cold so much, but I do hope we don’t reach minus zero every month!

-Mike

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Blogger, skier, biker, dude wrangler. I also like Bacon. I write the online directory of cool things to show your kids, The Gizzard Stone Reno, Nevada